Cherry Lane Theatre
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Cherry Lane Theatre entrance
|Address||38 Commerce Street
Manhattan, New York City
|Operator||Cherry Lane Theatre Company|
|Capacity||179 main stage, 60 studio|
|Opened||March 24, 1924|
|Architect||Cleon Throckmorton (conversion)|
The Cherry Lane Theatre (CLT), located at 38 Commerce Street in the borough of Manhattan, is New York City's oldest continuously running off-Broadway theater. The Cherry Lane contains a 179-seat main stage and a 60-seat studio.
The building was constructed as a farm silo in 1817, and also served as a tobacco warehouse and box factory before Edna St. Vincent Millay and other members of the Provincetown Players converted the structure into a theater they christened the Cherry Lane Playhouse, which opened in 1924 with the theatrical presentation "Saturday Night," by Richard Fresnell. This was followed by the plays "The Man Who Ate Popmack," by W. J. Turner, directed by Reginald Travers, on March 24, 1924; and The Way of the World by William Congreve and produced by the Cherry Lane Players Inc., opening November 17, 1924.
The Living Theatre, Theatre of the Absurd, and the Downtown Theater movement all took root there, and it developed a reputation as a place where aspiring playwrights and emerging voices could showcase their work.
A succession of major American plays streamed out of the small edifice, by writers including F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, and Elmer Rice in the 1920s; Eugene O'Neill, Sean O'Casey, Clifford Odets, W. H. Auden, Gertrude Stein, Luigi Pirandello, and William Saroyan in the 1940s; Samuel Beckett, Pablo Picasso, T. S. Eliot, Jean Anouilh, and Tennessee Williams in the 1950s; Harold Pinter, LeRoi Jones, Eugène Ionesco, Terrence McNally, Lanford Wilson, and Lorraine Hansberry, in the 1960s, as well as Edward Albee, staging a large number of his plays; and Sam Shepard, Joe Orton and David Mamet in the 1970s and 1980s.
Beckett's Happy Days had its world premiere at the Cherry Lane, directed by Alan Schneider, on September 17, 1961.
Angelina Fiordellisi bought the theater and the building in 1996 for $1.7 million, and renovated it for $3 million. That year, Fiordellisi, as artistic director, Susann Brinkley co-founded the Cherry Lane Theatre Company. The following year, Fiordellisi founded the Cherry Lane Alternative.
In 1998, Fiordellisi, Brinkley, and playwright Michael Weller co-founded the company's Mentor Project, which matches established dramatists with aspiring playwrights in one-to-one mentoring relationships. Each mentor works with a playwright to perfect a single work during the season-long process, which culminates in a showcase production. Participants have included Pulitzer Prize-winners David Auburn, Charles Fuller, Tony Kushner, Marsha Norman, Alfred Uhry, Jules Feiffer, and Wendy Wasserstein, as well as Pulitzer nominees A.R. Gurney, David Henry Hwang (Tony Award, Obie Award), Craig Lucas, Theresa Rebeck, and Obie Award-winners Ed Bullins (three-time winner) and Lynn Nottage, as mentors. From the outset, Edward Albee has participated as the Mentor's Mentor by attending Project readings and performances and conducting a yearly Master Class.
Fiordellisi has founded numerous other programs at the theater, including a Master Class series in 2000.
Productions staged at the Cherry Lane include The Rimers of Eldritch, Claudia Shear's Blown Sideways Through Life, Fortune's Fool with Alan Bates and Frank Langella, The Sum of Us with Tony Goldwyn, the Richard Maltby, Jr.-David Shire musical Closer Than Ever, Sam Shepard's True West, Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Edward Albee's The Zoo Story, John-Michael Tebelak's and Stephen Schwartz's Godspell, Paul Osborn's Morning's at Seven, and the long-running Nunsense.
In 2008, the theater mounted the return of two historic one-acts as part of its annual Heritage Series: Edward Albee's The American Dream (first produced at the CLT in 1961 by Richard Barr and Clinton Wilder) and The Sandbox (first produced at CLT in 1962 in a collaboration between producers Richard Barr, Clinton Wilder and playwright Edward Albee). Both starred Judith Ivey, George Bartenieff and Jesse Williams. Actress Myra Carter was forced to withdraw from the production due to illness, and was replaced by actress Lois Markle. The evening was directed by Albee himself on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
The last Cherry Lane production was a 25th-anniversary revival of Nunsense, running June 15 to July 18, 2010.
In August 2011, Angelina Fiordellisi announced that Cherry Lane Theatre had been able to work off almost all of its debt and plans to produce again in 2012. Fiordellisi had received hundreds of phone calls and emails and visits from people who were concerned to hear that she was leaving and that the theatre was for sale, and when those people started referring rentals to Cherry Lane she was able to look ahead and feel more secure about the theatre's financial future.
Cherry Lane Theatre began producing new works again with its OBIE Award-winning Mentor Project in February 2012.
- Lee, Felicia R. "Cherry Lane Theater Artistic Director to Leave and Sell Building", The New York Times, December 21, 2010. Retrieved December 24, 2010. WebCitation archive.
- "History: 1924-1929", Cherry Lane Theatre (official site). Retrieved December 24, 2010. WebCitation archive.
- "History: 1940-1949", Cherry Lane Theatre
- "History: 1950-1959", Cherry Lane Theatre
- "History: 1960-1969", Cherry Lane Theatre
- "History: 1970-1979", Cherry Lane Theatre
- "History: 1980-1989", Cherry Lane Theatre
- Page, Tim (October 13, 1986). "Music: 'Vagabond King'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-05. wWebCitation archive.
- "History: 1990-1999", Cherry Lane Theatre
- History: 2010 and Onward, Cherry Lane Theatre
- Playbill August 2011
- New York Times, August 2011
- Cherry Lane Theatre, http://www.cherrylanetheatre.org/. "Mentor Project | Programs". Cherry Lane Theatre. Retrieved 2012-11-25.